Sunday, 19 August 2012

Wknd 18-19 August

Arrived at Seton prom on rising tide Saturday afternoon to find the Wrecked Craigs rocks covered in birds, 500+, with a large influx of terns, mainly Common Tern with 240+ (28 juv) [previous high count here was 20 on 3/9/06, can't find any bigger in Lothian database either!]. No great surprise with huge numbers being reported from Aberlady though. Also still Sandwich in numbers (87, 29 juv), and, the ad+juv Roseate were back again.

Photos of ringed birds below, had just completed reading the Sandwich Tern metal ring (DD61480) when I spotted the Roseates again close in and realised I had a perhaps unique opportunity to decode their own inscribed metal rings "Roseate Specials". Tough work reading the tiny letters and on tenter hooks as passers-by flushed nearest terns off rocks, but the photos obtained seem to have enough at least for the adult (and I'm hoping there are limited known combinations of this year's successful breeders, wherever they may be from). Coquet had 71 prs rearing 75 chicks this year, which is one obvious possibility [post-script - subsequent confirmed as a Coquet bird 32/V0 ringed 9/7/06]. The only 2 previous ring "controls" for this species in Lothian both derived from Fife, likely at former breeding sites on inner Forth islands, so it would be a good one if these can be confirmed as out-of-area visitors.

An ad male Peregrine also went throo W at one point flushing all the terns, but they settled again. 2 Common Sand amongst the waders which I did not have time to count. In the midst of all this was also trying to log and photo the many Shag rings, got 20 different today/ystdy but with an overlap which were same on both days of just 6, showing the sort of turn-over. Probably more than half of young Shags now sport a colour ring (darvic), not very long ago even to get a single read was a highlight of a day's birding but now reading and documenting them all has become quite a job!

The legibility also varies enormously, sparse black letters on white are relatively easy, whilst dense letters on green, e.g. code green-XDN, are really tough. Some of this illustrated below, ZTC on green is OK but initially with poor view thought it was ZIC, also ZXZ was a tricky combination, depending on the orientation an X can often either look like a V or an A. Shags here almost always at same range of 300m, once the tide rises to cover the last rocks they go out to sea, going onto the shore tends to flush them (though people regularly do!). red-TJI on its favourite rock is an old friend, a 2009 chick from Isle of May, thus 3rd-sum~adult plumage, also seen here last summer.

At the other end of the spectrum, got breeding confirmation for Feral Pigeon at Seton East, though farmer was planning to evict them, nevertheless 51st confirmed in NT47C (now just 4 more expected: Gropper, Mistle Thrush, Stock Dove & Greenfinch).

Sunday - not quite as many birds at Seton, got only 4 Shag darvics with only one new. Around WeBS the main highlight was abundant young of sparrows and hirundines; at East Fenton, a great cloud of sparrows rising from dust baths and cereal back into hawthorn hedge, slowly trickling back over several minutes but on every alarm from the Swallows over nearby farm all rushing back to cover. Never got a complete count but estimated at least 300, 80% plus were Tree Sparrows, mainly young; previous high counts in 2007 & 2009 were only c. 60 (more in winter flocks). Many more House Sparrows round the farm itself, plus 180+ House Martins perched all over - also mainly juvs but not all locally produced (just 3 UN there). Quail still singing there too, regular bouts audible from fields towards Chapel farm. Added a few breeding confirmations, spanning Coot, hirundines, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Goldfinch, all on basis of (likely local) fledged young.

In the evening, while doing the "hedge" (grown 10 feet in 5 years!) in a nice cooling rain Swifts suddenly appeared overhead, 45 went SW in a silent procession, just the odd abrupt high-pitched "chik" being uttered - perhaps their final appearance here? Same hedge (c. 15m long) contained no less than 3 Woodpigeon nests with eggs, though only one is active. After blaming the kids then suspecting the Blackbird now I've discovered who has been rooting out all our flowering stonecrop below the kitchen window, fresh nest base made out of it!

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